The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. We've had to switch from going to work in an office or business to walking down the hallway instead. This ‘new normal’ presents its own unique challenges and the abrupt shift from one routine to an entirely new one can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels. As you may have noticed, it is hard to stay focused and productive when stress and anxiety levels are high, especially when working at home where distractions may be more plentiful.
Needless to say, we could all benefit from a simplified daily routine, infused with nourishing practices to lift our mood and energy levels and keep us feeling connected. Mindfulness techniques are a great way to keep you all anchored in calm with no extra time, energy or expense required. During this tough time, here are five thoughtful ideas you can explore to stay focused and productive:
1. Remember to Breathe
Those with high levels of stress have a low variability in their heart rate (HRV). This means that their heart has a harder time switching from a higher heart rate to a lower one, or vice versa. Having a low HRV has been associated with a higher risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks. The good news is practicing deep breathing can help. Slowing down breathing to a rate of six breaths per minute (i.e., five-seconds in, five-seconds out) helps increase your HRV. Deep breathing also promotes a relaxed and calming feeling that helps to alleviate tension and bring yourself and your needs back to attention.
2. Take a Break
As your personal life starts to intertwine with your work life, it’s not hard to lose track of time while working from home. At home you miss out on the little breaks you get while at work, such as talking to a coworker or getting up from your desk and going to the water cooler. Instead, try to sit outside in your backyard or on your front steps to get some fresh air and a break from your computer screen. Make the point to take a true lunch break and eat at your dining room table, away from your laptop. You could even just walk up and down the stairs a few times to get yourself up and moving! Anything to help you avoid burnout and come back to your work feeling refreshed. Breaks are also a wonderful time for reflection! Take a moment to write down three things you are grateful for or listen to a guided meditation. Meditation can reduce stress and anxiety by allowing you to concentrate on yourself and take your mind off of what's going on around you.
3. Avoid Distractions
Many of us work from home with others whether they are roommates, spouses, or children. When your kids want attention or your spouse is invading your workspace, it's easy to become distracted. Set up an organized and dedicated work space only for yourself, if possible. If you do not have this choice, be sure to set strict standards and limits for when you need alone time to get work done. In order not to be interrupted during a meeting, let your partner or roommate know what you have scheduled for the day. For your children, try to schedule activities accordingly so that they know what to expect and are occupied when you need them to be. Remember this idea is new to everyone, so getting used to it can take some time.
4. Be Social
This may sound counterintuitive, but finding ways to remain social is important at a time when we are distancing ourselves from others. Although you might not be able to stop by the desk of a co-worker to say "hello" in the morning, instead, make it a habit of texting them to check in. You can also take this time at home to video chat with friends or family, start an online class to learn something new, or enter a Facebook group with like-minded people, to give you something to look forward to after work hours.
5. Stay Positive
Simply being optimistic is one of the most important things you can do, though we know that can be easier said than done. As we are continually worried about one thing or another, pessimistic thoughts can contribute to increased levels of stress and anxiety. Start your day off by writing something positive on a sticky note and either sticking it to your desk or phone, or taking a few minutes to put yourself in a good mood by watching a funny video. Although we may not be able to control the situation we're in, we can still learn to control how we feel and respond to it.
Bottomline: it's important to take some time to reflect on your mental health and wellbeing, as we all learn to adapt to these rapid changes. For many of us, this notion is new, so remember to be considerate of others as well. During this challenging time it might be beneficial to use an app like Total Brain to track your overall mental health and learn more about managing it. This platform offers self-care resources with over 40 different exercises that help alleviate stress and anxiety, increase concentration, resilience, and more.
Learn more about healthy habits and the wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Nada Krayem, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Total Brain